There are 300,000 students in Yerushalayim, making it the largest school system in the country — and by its own estimates, the Yerushalayim Municipality says it is 3,800 classrooms short of what is needed to adequately serve all students. As a result, schools have been forced to hold classes in caravans, auditoriums, gymnasiums and all sorts of other temporary locations, many of which have become more permanent than temporary.
Now the municipality has developed a plan that will at least partially alleviate the classroom shortage, in which it will raise a billion shekels from public and private sources to specifically build classrooms. The money — a total of NIS 370 million a year for three years — will be fronted by the Interior Ministry, as a loan that will be backed by financing from Bank Leumi. The city will raise money to pay off the loan using a variety of methods, including taxes, fundraising, and solicitation of donations. Part of that cost will be defrayed by the NIS 140 million the city currently spends on rent and other expenses for the temporary quarters it currently uses for classroom space.
The city intends to push through permits for the construction of new classrooms at currently existing schools, and for the construction of new schools in various neighborhoods. According to estimates, there is need for another 505 classrooms in the general school system, 1,938 in the Arab schools, and 1,410 in the chareidi schools. An additional 186 classrooms are needed annually, city officials said.
Commenting on the plan, Mayor Nir Barkat said that “Yerushalayim’s students deserve more. We have devised a new economic model that ‘thinks outside the box’ to expand the number of classrooms. This is a leap forward for city residents. It is our obligation to ensure that all students are able to learn in proper conditions to ensure their success.”